I read somewhere about the preferences we develop for certain flavors or dishes and how we derive that fondness.
In most cases our preferences are associated with positive contexts from our past — family dinners, special evenings shared with friends, a great vacation — the type of occasion that carries the warmth of good times and good feelings, often in the form of what we call comfort foods.
I was reminded of this on a recent UK vacation when I came across a cooking magazine with a recipe for chicken cacciatore, a dish that is characteristic of comfort food for me. This version used bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and also called for a “tin” of cherry tomatoes.
Although I jotted down the ingredients, I figured I would never find any canned cherry tomatoes back home, so I stashed the recipe notes in an idea file and forgot about them. Then, poking around Sur la Table the other day looking for Spanish olive oil, I came across a 28.2-ounce (800-gram) can of imported cherry tomatoes!
I bought three cans and came home to search for my notes on the recipe. In the end, I decided to switch it up to a sous vide preparation with boneless, skinless chicken thighs and a couple of other tweaks. The resulting dish was comforting, delicious, and very simple to prepare.
Serves 2 to 3
- Preheat the water bath to 152°F (67°C).
- Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until soft and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes, being careful not to brown. Remove the pan from the heat and add the tomatoes, stirring to combine. Gently stir in the basil and the mascarpone. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool slightly.
- When the sauce has cooled, place about a third in a 1-gallon zip-lock bag. Add 3 of the chicken thighs. Add another third of the sauce, the other 3 thighs, and then the remaining sauce. Seal using the water displacement method.
- Cook for 2 hours.
- To refrigerate for later use, first immerse the bag in a bowl of ice and water immediately after removing it from the water oven. Add more ice if necessary to quickly chill. Once cold, refrigerate the bag until ready to use.
- If serving immediately, transfer the chicken and sauce to an ovenproof dish or ramekin large enough to easily hold all the ingredients. Heat a broiler to high. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the optional Parmigiano Reggiano if desired. Place the casserole under the broiler for a couple of minutes, watching closely, just to brown the sauce. Garnish with a couple of tablespoons of fresh basil chiffonade.
Note: The canned cherry tomatoes I used were the Academia Barilla brand, purchased at Sur La Table and also available online. If you can’t find them locally and don’t want to order them, any good-quality canned tomato, such as San Marzano, should work fine. I don’t recommend fresh cherry tomatoes because they would have to be peeled (ugh), and they won’t have the same texture and thickening properties as canned.